UFC 293: Adesanya vs. Strickland - Fights to make
All the best, most interesting and unquestionably coolest fights the UFC needs to book following their latest event in Sydney, Australia.
I dunno about this one, guys. UFC 293 was just one hell of a weird night. Israel Adesanya put on a miserable performance, leading what can only be thought of as one of the biggest upsets in UFC history. As a result, Sean Strickland is the middleweight champion. Alexander Volkov beat the brakes off Tai Tuivasa, and Manel Kape went life and death with Felipe dos Santos. The rest of the main card didn’t matter at all.
So, is the UFC really going to run Izzy right back into the rematch with Strickland off a fight like that? Is there anything for Volkov to do but keep treading water? And why the hell is Kape so damn angry all the time?
To answer those questions—and a lot more—I’ll be using the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking methodology from the UFC of years past. That means pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent up against one another. Hopefully, by following that model, a few of these bout ideas will actually make it off the page and into the Octagon. Now, let’s get to the fights!
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Words I absolutely never thought I would type, but Sean Strickland is the UFC middleweight champion. It wasn't some kind of fluke; no magic act or miracle moment. Israel Adesanya got absolutely outclassed by Strickland in a pure kickboxing bout. Credit to the Xtreme Couture talent, he brought his A-game, walking Adesanya down with relentless pressure, popping the jab and the front kicks, lining up the occasional big right hand. Strickland's defense was on point as well, limiting Adesanya's chances to low kicks and the rare surprise hook.
The fact that—to go along with Strickland fighting a rock solid fight—Israel Adesanya showed up with an incredibly miserable gameplan can't be overlooked. With the possible exception of his bout against Romero, Adesanya has never looked worse. That doesn’t change a thing though. Strickland earned his title.
Personally, this would be the point where I'd say book Strickland vs. Du Plessis. Or, because I hadn't even considered this idea until someone else brought it up, book Izzy vs. Du Plessis and book Strickland vs. the Costa/Chimaev winner. Dana White, however seems already sold on the idea of an immediate rematch. Which, I get it, Adesanya has been a title holder for a while now, he's been active, and he avenged his last title defeat in incredible fashion. He's also clearly the biggest draw in the division. Wasting that fact in his prime would be a little silly. Given the chance, I'd book Strickland vs. the Costa/Chimaev winner, but we'll probably see Strickland vs. Adesanya 2.
Well, I kind of already gave my point away here in the Sean Strickland write up, but I still feel like I should use this space to say something. First and foremost, what the hell dude!? Everyone and their dog knew that Israel Adesanya would start this fight on the back foot and Sean Strickland would fight it on the front foot. Once that dynamic was set, however, Adesanya seemed to have zero ideas of how to change it.
He threw looping shots when Strickland went straight down the pipe, ensuring that practically none of his punches landed, and zero landed clean. Every time he pushed forward, Strickland flailed and failed to counter. But, Adesanya could only make himself do it in short bursts, and rarely trusted himself to lead with meaningful offense. Abus Magomedov may have crumbled harder, but he also put a hell of a lot more offense on Strickland while he did it. Opportunities were there and Adesanya took none of them.
The fact that he'll almost certainly get an immediate title rematch off of this doesn't really sit well with me. Losing 4 of 5 rounds to the new champion shouldn't be grounds to get right back in there and do it again. This wasn't one big shot that KO'd Izzy or a crazy submission in a scramble. He got out-fought in his own A-game. If I had it my way, Adesanya would fight Dricus Du Plessis. Make that grudge match happen, put it on the same PPV as Strickland vs. Chimaev (assuming he bulldozes Costa), so that things can be switched up in case of injury. That just makes good sense to me.
This was always going to be a miserable matchup for Tai Tuivasa. Fighting a huge, rangy kickboxer with a style almost purely built to bang it out in the pocket? Not a winning combo. Given Volkov's incredible durability as well, it just seemed like opportunities for Tuivasa to end things with a single bomb would be few and far between. Credit to the Aussie, he found some great success with his low kicks early in round 2. But it wasn't enough to turn the tide, especially not when Volkov started picking them off to dump Tuivasa to the mat.
That kind of dominating win should keep Volkov in the conversation for a top 5 opponent again. We're probably going to see Aspinall fight Ciryl Gane and Pavlovich might just get the next title shot. But, Curtis Blaydes is about to face Jailton Almeida and the winner of that wouldn't be a bad fit. Volkov already fought Blaydes, but I could stand having that one run back, and Almeida vs. Volkov would be a fascinating fight. Otherwise, the obvious option is the Derrick Lewis rematch. I guess, karmically, that last one makes too much sense to pass up. Derrick Lewis vs. Alexander Volkov 2. The first fight was too wild to never see it again.
Obviously, with as many cancelled fights as Manel Kape has had lately, he had to take this one. But to that end, this was a dangerous as hell booking for him to agree to. All downside, no upside against a fighter like Felipe Dos Santos—who had nothing to lose as a 22-year-old coming in on short notice for his debut. And credit to the Brazilian, he may not have come close to winning, but he showed everyone his potential for every minute of 3 rounds and never let Kape take his foot off the gas for a moment. Kape threw everything but the kitchen sink at 'Lipe Detona', and the kid just would not stop going after him.
After the bout, 'Starboy' made it clear that there's still only one thing on his mind: a bout against Kai Kara-France. The City Kickboxing talent was meant to meet the former RIZIN champ on this card, before a concussion forced him to withdraw. Kape has only seemed entirely furious with that turn of events and seems to want to make absolutely sure that 'Don't Blink' doesn't end up avoiding him. Kai Kara-France vs. Manel Kape is the fight to make, before Kape gets so mad he goes on another rant nobody wants to hear.
An absolutely clubbing win for Justin Tafa. We almost got the horror show of another eye poke stoppage early on, fortunately Tafa recovered this time. He still struggled a little with Austen Lane's size at times, but once he found his way past Lane's reach, everything got a whole lot easier…